Seattle biotech startup beating rhino poachers by 3D printing horns.
Pembient corporation developed a “bio-fabricated” rhino horn made out of keratin, the same substance of our fingernails.
The CEO and co-founder, Matthew Markus, says these are “absolutely identical to real rhino horns on a macroscopic, microscopic, and molecular level.” Collectors supposedly cannot distinguish real horns from Pembient’s fabricated ones.
So, instead of killing rhinos for their horns, you can now 3D print them.
Save the Rhino non-profit group calculates that about 1,054 rhinos were poached in 2016 in South Africa, up from only 13 in 2007. Although, poaching has decreased recently. They know the largest horn market is in China where people consider them as collectible investments.
Some may argue that the price for real organic rhino horns may rise as they become rarer in a synthetic market.
“More than 90% of ‘rhino horns’ in circulation are fake (mostly carved from buffalo horn or wood), but poaching rates continue to rise annually.”
– The International Rhino Foundation and Save The Rhino International
But since telling them apart is basically impossible and with so many manmade ones flooding the market, the price should drop. Pembient will prioritize selling their horns to Asian horn-carving jewelry makers as the place to inject their 3D printed ones into the black market.
“If you cordon rhino horn off, you create this prohibition mindset,” Pembient CEO Matthew Markus said. “And that engenders crime, corruption, and everything else that comes with a black market.”
Hopefully, such technologies can reduce the harm to animals and natural resources. Perhaps this may encourage artistic creativity and craftsmanship instead.